Innovate or die

25 Feb, 2018 - 00:02 0 Views
Innovate or die

The Sunday Mail

It is a very human foible to be comfortable in the familiar. We derive great comfort from having an “acceptable” way of doing things, following tradition and hiding behind convention.

For many, the unknown and new ways hold much fear, even as we like to brag about living in an age of innovation that gives us technological toys to occupy our time ever day.

People find solace in formulas and rigidity.

But the reality is that there is no formula to life. There is no rigid pathway to success. More particularly for us in Zimbabwe, there is no magic bullet that will suddenly develop our national economy and put food on every table, clothes on every back, and a roof over every head.

If anything, this marvellous age of innovation has told us that the old ways of doing things can have minimal or zero results.

Our Government, under the stewardship of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has made it crystal clear that economic revival is its top priority.

While a clear path towards this revival is being charted, everyone involved – that is every Zimbabwean – needs to be innovative.

The nation needs to break away from tradition and venture into new territory if we are serious about taking this ship to our mutually desired destination of sustainable development for decent livelihoods.

Already, Zimbabwe’s economy, once the breadbasket of Southern Africa, has begun to show flickers of life after a decade of roaming in the wilderness. What the doctors will order at this critical juncture will determine the speed at which Zimbabwe fully recovers and forever leaves the intensive care unit.

It goes without saying that every progressive Zimbabwean desires a speedy recovery. With 70 percent of the country’s population relying on farming for their livelihoods, agriculture remains the backbone of the country’s economy.

This is a sector that is not only critical to food self-sufficiency, which in itself ends the need to spend money on imports, but also provides the bulk of raw materials for manufacturing, thus growing exports.

At a time the whole world is reeling from the effects of climate change and calling for more eco-friendly ways of farming that conserve water, vegetation and soil cover, there is need for innovation in agriculture on several fronts.

The old ways of approaching agriculture will no longer do. Which is why there is greater need for investment in both the financing and creativity that informs Command Agriculture.

Zimbabwe needs to put its time, money and energy in irrigation systems that effectively use water.

The country needs to occupy itself with rolling out a cost-effective mechanisation programme that allows smallholders – the backbone of national food security – to get more out of their land.

There is need for greater practical research in seed varieties and fertilisers so that we start producing what we need in this regard in sufficient quantities.

The change in our ways should also encompass things as simple but as vital as how we plant, with the State, through its extension services, placing greater emphasis on methods such as zero tillage.

In this context, we need Command Agriculture to become a holistic programme that looks at the entire value chain and introduces innovations that deliver quick wins for our economy.

The same applies to another key sector: mining.

Mining can provide the financial resources needed to invest in farm mechanisation, and with low hanging fruits like gold, there is no reason why our economy cannot be set right with minimal fuss.

For this to happen, an innovative production monitoring, taxation and royalties regime is needed so that both miners and the State benefit from the resources that are extracted here.

In addition, a recent report from the University of Zimbabwe suggests that Zimbabwe sits on about 60 minerals and metals, and 20 of these remain unexploited.

That’s money lying idle while the yawning deficit gap persists. Surely, our thinkers can unlock this unrealised value. With the whole world warming up to Zimbabwe following the change of Government in November 2017, serious opportunities abound in agriculture and mining.

As we have stated several times on this very page over the years, the best way for any Government to win votes is by delivering economic results to the electorate. Elections are a few months away and it is in the Government’s best interests to lure investment in mining and agriculture by thinking innovatively.

But it is not just about the politicians.

Our research institutions must step forward and fully take on the think tank role they are supposed to play.

In their spheres big and small, all Zimbabweans have a duty to come up with new ways of making this economy tick.

We cannot afford to hide behind the fig leaf of tradition and convention. Innovating is an existential imperative.

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